Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Power of Blessing

My DMin classmate Ron Zook's thesis is about "Blessed to be a Blessing." I liked his stuff so much that I used some of it as the theme for this morning's service. He presents a good theological summary of blessing and I thought I would include it here. It's good work. By the way he is in South America right now learning Spanish while on a short Sabbatical and he is blogging his experiences here. Thanks Ron for blessing me with this work! Be blessed in South America!

Blessing is life giving. To be blessed is to receive life and to bless is to give life. Blessing is intentionally choosing life – receiving life from God and helping others find life in God. God has created us to be blessed and to be a blessing. When we walk in the way of God’s extravagant blessing, we will experience extravagant life – a life that gives life to others.

God desires to extravagantly bless us and to make us a people of extravagant blessing. Spiritual renewal and growth occur as we become a people of joyful blessing. We encounter the blessing of God when the Spirit of God brings to life the Word of God in our lives. It is out of this heart and mind encounter with God that we experience extravagant life and give life to others.

A. Blessing is God’s Intent from the Beginning
Blessing was God’s intent right from the beginning of creation. God created man and woman in his own image and then God blessed them. Blessing were the very first words God spoke to Adam and Eve. God’s words of blessing were life giving. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."" Genesis 1:27-28

B. Blessing and Cursing – Life and Death
God loves life. God created us for life. A blessing is anything that gives life. The opposite of a blessing is a curse. A curse is anything that takes away life or robs one of life. God repeatedly makes it clear that his purpose and desire is to bless his people by giving them life. But when his people disobey, they suffer the effects of God’s curse. When Adam and Eve yielded to the serpent’s temptations and disobeyed God, God cursed the serpent.

C. God’s Covenant with Abraham - I will bless you… and you will be a blessing
Rather than destroying his people, God established a new covenant with his people through Abraham – a covenant that is saturated with blessing and life. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
“I will bless you… and you will be a blessing” is a theme throughout scripture – God blesses his people to make them a blessing. From the overflow of the blessings we receive, we bless others.
In Psalm 1, God gives a picture of what blessing and life looks like – Blessed is the man… He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yield fruit in season. A tree that is not dying; but a tree that is full of life, drinking deeply from streams of water and yielding fruit.

D. Blessing is Choosing Life
Blessing is a choice, choosing life over death, righteousness over evil, blessing over destruction. Those who choose the way of righteousness and blessing in Psalm 1 are promised wholeness and everlasting life. They will be like a tree full of fruit and whose leaves never wither. Those who choose wickedness and evil will be like chaff the wind blows away.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses brings people to the edge of the Promised Land and confronts them to choose between life and death.
"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him."
Blessing is freely offered to us as a gift, but we must accept it and receive it. The way of blessing leads to joy and life, the way of cursing leads to destruction and death.

E. Jesus Gives Life
In the New Testament, the word of the Lord has become a person and in that person was life. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men." The blessing and life given to Abraham now comes to all of us through this real person Jesus.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of Spirit. (Gal. 3:14)
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. (John 11:26)
Jesus also confronts the people with a choice between life and death. Jesus makes it clear that his purpose is to bless, to give life, and to give it to the full. But Satan, the thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 Jesus laments and warns, cajoles and threatens, beseeches and tells stories, all with the intent of breaking hard hearts who will not hear or believe so they will choose life over death.

F. Blessing is Favor with God.
For Mary, the mother of Jesus, God’s blessing was favor – “You have found favor with God!” God’s blessing was a state of being for Mary, a way of living each day knowing that God looked upon her with favor. Blessing is God casting his gaze upon her with favor and grace. Blessing is being on the receiving end of God’s favor rather than God’s curse.

G. Beatitudes – The Way of Life and Blessing
The beatitudes show us the way of life found in the way of Jesus. Sin is losing your way and destroys life. The beatitudes help us find our way and gives life. In the New Testament, the Christians described themselves as those “who belonged to the Way”. They instructed one another in the “Way of God”. Jesus was the pioneer of their faith, who went ahead of them, pointing out the way of life for them to follow. Jesus is both the way and a way of life. By following Jesus, we find our way and also a way of life.

The beatitudes describe the way of life in the kingdom of God. It is a way that confronts the logic of the mind. The beatitudes lead us to an encounter with God by speaking directly to the heart and the soul. The beatitudes often seem like contradictions, and yet they remain true forever. They are a way of mystery and love. The way only makes sense if you understand the self-sacrificing love of Christ. It is through Christ’s example of love that it is possible to find wealth in poverty, joy in sorrow, glory in meekness, wholeness in righteousness, justice in mercy, clarity in purity of heart, equality in peacemaking, and victory in persecution.
Beatitudes are the incarnation of Christ – God with us. They are how God chooses to be with us and grace us with His divine favor. They assure us that in the face of sorrow, hunger and thirst, and even persecution, that we are capable of following the way of compassion and peace. We become able to love others as we are loved by God.

The beatitudes are eight keys that unlock the way of life. They paint a picture of a community of people loved into the freedom of God rather than being tormented by oppressive imperatives. Beatitudes are all about inner transformation of the heart and spiritual formation. They call us to a way of being that is opposite of what the world expects. Rather than dominating others to find life, we are to be gentle and full of mercy. Instead of running away from suffering, we are to welcome persecution for holiness’ sake. Instead of amassing possessions, true life comes from being poor in spirit.

The beatitudes in a nutshell are a choice! They call us to choose our attitudes and actions, and then act upon that choice with others, and finally, to go forth telling what we have seen and heard. Beatitudes teach us positive attitudes that bring healing and life in contrast to negative attitudes that destroy life and bring sickness and death.

H. God’s Dream for His People
God’s dream for his people is that we become full of life – like a tree of blessing planted by streams of water bearing fruit in season. This is God’s dream for us! This is God’s dream for every family and person in our community. It’s up to each person to receive it or reject it. And if we choose to receive it, it will joyfully overflow to others around us. Blessing thus becomes a powerful act of evangelism and outreach. Blessing also builds up the church.

God’s blessing is the gift of unconditional love and approval. Each of us is created with a God-given need to feel blessed—to be loved and accepted for who we are, regardless of what we have done or failed to do. In many homes, the blessing is withheld and family members suffer for the rest of their lives. Many seek to fill the void with busy activities, career, wealth, possessions, and other distractions. Others spend a lifetime striving for acceptance and blessing.

When family members feel the security of acceptance and blessing, their present and future relationships will be impacted forever. The church is the central means by which God wants to pass on the blessing to each family today. A father's or mother’s blessing can give a child the inspiration, reassurance and confidence to live life to its fullest potential. Nothing is more rewarding to the giver and the receiver than the amazing, affirming results of a blessing.

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